This week’s HW+ member spotlight features Ben Bernstein, director at Axonic Capital, an investment firm with a deep focus on the structured credit sector of the financial markets. Prior to that, Bernstein held leadership roles in Odeon Capital Group and JPMorgan Chase.
Below, Bernstein answers questions about the housing industry:
HousingWire: What is your current favorite HW+ article and why?
Ben Bernstein: Logan and Sarah’s Monday podcast is my go to. Logan cuts through all the noise and delivers clear concise opinions rooted in the data. So not only do I get updates on what is going on in the housing market but I learn which data points are relevant and how to analyze them. And Sarah always asks insightful questions. On top of that, it is super entertaining!
HousingWire: What has been your biggest learning opportunity?
Ben Bernstein: My biggest learning opportunity (and weirdest job I ever had) was every job I ever had. I started my career at Bear Stearns on February 23 2008. To say that was an interesting time and place to start a career would be an understatement. Two weeks later I was working for JPMorgan and eventually made it to a desk whose focus was working out of the assets that brought Bear down in the first place.
Think funky bonds linked to housing like subprime RMBS and CDOs. Getting to dig deep into what these bonds were and how the underlying mortgages impacted them was priceless. I started at Axonic, a credit fund focused on investments linked to residential and commercial real estate, in November of 2019.
Another interesting time to join an investment firm! Three months later, I was working remotely and figuring out how to be productive from home. Fourteen years into my career and my biggest learning opportunity is right now.
I’m learning new stuff every single day whether it be about the bond market, housing, trading, macro economics, etc. All I need to do is turn around and ask a question out loud and I’ll learn something new.
HousingWire: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Ben Bernstein: The best piece of advice I’ve ever received was what is important is what you do when no one is looking. Your reputation, work ethic, success, productivity and integrity are all linked to what you do because you know you need to do it as opposed to what you think other people want you to do.
HousingWire: What’s 2-3 trends that you’re closely following?
Ben Bernstein: I don’t think anyone will be surprised by the trends I’m following these days: Inflation, credit spreads, housing prices and how they are all intertwined. Fortunately I have smart people around me (including HousingWire) to give me their opinions on where we are headed. It’s my job to put it all together. The past two years have been some of the most interesting times in markets and from where I sit I don’t think that will change any time soon.
HousingWire: What keeps you up at night and why?
Ben Bernstein: What keeps me up at night is the state of the housing market. 35+% home price appreciation since COVID-19 began. Two months supply of housing. Mortgage rates going up faster than they ever have. There’s a lot going on!
One thing as bond traders that we do is we look down before we look up. In other words we look at risk before we look at upside. An overheated housing market is something we pay close attention to because we don’t want prices to go down precipitously but we don’t want inflation to run away either. So it’s really an interesting time to be tracking the housing market and all of the ancillary markets that are impacted by it.
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